PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — Behind the lens, students like JFK High School junior Lia Payano are about to change lives.

“Being able to come into one and create these films to put it out in the world is very empowering,”, said Payano.

Payano will be helping to shoot and edit a collaborative anti-bullying public service announcement video. The video, which will run about 1 minute in length, will be crafted by students at JFK, Rosa Parks and Eastside High Schools in Paterson, and Payne Tech in Newark.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” said Payano, talking about overarching themes contained in the PSA. “You really don’t know what the other person is going through.”

“Don’t bottle your emotions, there’s always someone there for you and it’s okay to ask for help,” said Courtney Nelson, a student who will be working on sound for the video. 

Every filmmaker needs some inspiration. That’s why students from the schools met with a panel of pro filmmakers with local roots to take in words of wisdom.

“They can do a lot of things on their phones,” said Jamal Hall, a professional film director. “They can edit a whole movie, shoot it on an iPhone, on an Android, and put it on Instagram, on YouTube, and possibly get picked up, you never know.”

The students working on the PSA hope to have the project wrapped up by mid-June, and it’s their hope they can show it at the Paterson School Board’s final meeting of the year. The PSA will also be submitted to film festivals. 

“What we really want is students to have awareness, we want students to be upstanders,” said Nicole Payne from Paterson Public Schools. “We want to be able to really put a dent and reduce harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

The project could be the start of a bright future in film.

“It can be done,” said Kenneth Gifford, founder of the Newark International Film Festival. “It’s here for you, there’s nothing stopping you. As long as you put your mind towards it, as long as you put your best foot forward, it can be done.”

“As a kid who grew up in Paterson and areas like these, you sometimes walk around feeling like life isn’t so possible, like great things aren’t so possible, that people don’t believe in you, they don’t think you’re worthy, you’re not worth anything,” said Rahman Bugg, an executive producer, and director. “I think I really wanted to show them that people care about them just as they are.”